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Health & Parenting

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Lead in Toys: Could It Be Lurking in Your Home?

While many dangerous toys have been recalled, lead has been found in some that haven't made any recall list. Here's what you need to know.

Lead in Toys: Toys Still on Shelves continued...

During the past 14 months, the CPSC has overseen 31.7 million voluntary recalls, of which nearly 4 million were due to excessive lead in toys. The overwhelming majority of those toys were made in China, which manufactures 80% of the toys sold in this country.

Jewelry, also frequently made in China, has been the target of even more recalls. Since 2004, manufacturers have recalled more than 45 jewelry products involving 170 million units due to excessive lead. Even non-recalled jewelry, however -- including some labeled "lead-free" -- has proven to be dangerous.

The New York Times, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Consumer Reports, and the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., all recently found that dangerous products for children are still widely available. The Ecology Center has compiled a database of more than 1,200 toys it tested for lead and other dangerous chemicals at

"What we're seeing are far too many companies who have let down the bar or who fail to do quality assurance through their contractors and subcontractors," says Wolfson. "That's where the breakdown has happened."

Wolfson says that while the recalls are far from over, parents need not panic because the majority of toys in the U.S. are safe.

"We have billions of toys being brought into the marketplace each year," he says, "and we are going to capture all the toys that need to be recalled. Hope is on the way in 2008."

Lead in Toys: Effects of Lead Poisoning

John F. Rosen, a nationally recognized lead poisoning specialist, is angered that hazardous toys and jewelry continue to be sold to children.

"I've seen the devastating effects of lead and it's horrible," says Rosen, professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Rosen has treated more than 30,000 childhood victims of lead poisoning. "It's horrible and it shouldn't happen."

Although most lead poisoning has no obvious, immediate symptoms, it can affect a child's brain, nervous system, heart, and red blood cells. In extreme cases, it causes seizures, comas, and death.

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